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To Raise a Healthy Pet, Read Between the Lines of Its Behavior

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 by: Susan Thixton
Tags: pet health, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Not to sound too 'out there' but I'm a big believer that pet food manufacturers and our pets show us 'signs'. The point being to urge you to always be aware of the signs presented to you with your pets and the products they consume.

Earlier in the year there were reports of pets becoming sick from Nutro pet foods. Again this month (June 2008), Consumer Affairs website published a lengthy article reporting on sick pets eating Nutro Pet Food (http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2008/0...) . Nutro's response earlier in the year - as reported by a pet owner - was 'perhaps the food was contaminated in shipment or distribution warehousing'. And the recent article from ConsumerAffairs.com website (link above) shows not much more of an interest from Nutro to take responsibility. The article does, however, make an interesting point how various Nutro products were suddenly missing from store shelves.

Nutro's response, according to one one pet owner, was "He stated that no recall was in effect, and Nutro just happened to shut down a few plants producing what he termed 'not as tasty food,' and the 'quality' was not up to par." Yet another pet owner was told "the reason the food was not on the shelves was because the company that made the bags had a machine break, and the company ran out of chicken. But I was feeding lamb and rice." As of today (June 23, 2008), the Nutro website makes no mention of pulled products or complaints of sick pets. There's a sign.

Contrary to Nutro, Timberwolf Pet Foods recently pulled several products from store shelves publicly because of pet owner complaints. Timberwolf posted a brief report on their website regarding the complaints of pet owners, listed the symptoms of ill pets, listed the 'best by' dates of effected products, and encourages pet owners to contact them if there is a problem. There's a different sign.
Another sign I've noticed in the last year or so, some pet food manufacturers boldly tell me they use human grade/quality meat. Yet when you look at the ingredients of their pet foods, you notice 'by-products'. By AAFCO definition, by-products are not considered suitable for human consumption. I guess they could be... if you consider chicken feet, intestines, or spleens human food. But by definition of by-products and by-product meals, when a pet food manufacturer states by-products are human grade, they are greatly stretching the truth. Another sign.

There is not one pet food company that can assure you no problems will ever arise from suppliers, manufacturing, or storage of their pet foods. But they do provide us with signs of their level of integrity. How a company handles a problem tells us a great deal. You can try to cover it up or stick your head in the sand, thinking more of profits than the well being of your customers; similar to the case with the recent alleged Petco Distribution contamination problem. Or you can face a problem head on, knowing it might hurt profits but it's the right thing to do. Whether it's a pet food brand or it's a pet food supplier - they show us signs. Signs of what is important to them - profits or our pets.

Our pets can show us signs as well. Back when I owned my kennel, people trusted me to care for their pets while they were on vacation. They had no idea whether their pets were treated lovingly or if they were just left in their rooms to wait out their stay with me. The pets can't talk, so no one was gonna rat me out if I didn't do as I had promised. However, even though the pets didn't talk 'words' to their owners about their treatment, they still 'talked' and showed their owners signs. I had scratch marks on the outside of the door to my kennel (scratching to get in), and daily I witnessed dogs dragging their owners across the parking lot to get inside. One dog even jumped out the car window as the owner was pulling in the driveway and while mom was parking the car, the dog was adding to the scratch marks on the front door -- he couldn't wait to come inside!

Our pets show us signs in their behavior, their water consumption, their eating habits, and activity levels. Start today to take note of 'normal' behavior for your pet. How many times they eliminate each day (#1 and #2), normal amounts of food eaten each day, normal behaviors, and normal activity. As an example, my almost fourteen year-old German Shepherd Gunner has been somewhat of a food hound his entire life. Kirby my three year-old Papillion, on the other hand, misses meals all the time. Typically he'll miss breakfast and eagerly eat dinner or vice versa. That is 'normal' behavior for both dogs.

Also both boys have to go out immediately after each meal - or there's trouble. I know that if Gunner misses meals, he doesn't feel good. I know that if either dog doesn't want to go out right after a meal, something's up. My cat, on the other hand, likes to have an audience for eating. Every single time I walk into the kitchen, he's following me and runs to his bowl so I can watch him eat a few bites. I know what is normal for my pets and any variation of normal behavior would be a sign for me to take notice of. Those signs could be just a bad day, or they could be the start of an illness I can hopefully address quickly.

And lastly, your pet food will provide you signs. Examine every bag or can before you open it. You are looking for tears or possible contamination of the packaging. Examine the product after you open it. Any change in smell or appearance just might be a sign there is a problem with the food. If you notice any change, before you feed it to your pet, call the manufacturer.

As caring and concerned pet parents, we must look for signs everywhere. As pet owners with busy lifestyles and trusting natures, we often don't take the time to notice the signs until far too late. My father used to have a saying of '20/20 hindsight'. Meaning after the fact, the mistake or signs leading to the mistake are perfectly clear. I hope to nudge you to start looking for signs before they become hindsight.

About the author

Susan Thixton has an international pet people following providing dog and cat lovers a trusted source for pet food and pet food ingredient information. She's been called courageous, perseverant, even "the Caped Crusader for Pets" for her 16 year study of pet food. Susan Thixton is the author of hundreds of pet industry articles and the 2006 released book Truth About Pet Food (currently being updated for a second edition). She developed and publishes the pet product consumer magazine Petsumer Report and is a frequent speaker and radio guest all over the U.S. and Canada with more than 70 appearances in the last 2 years.
If you are looking for straight forward pet food information that can have an almost immediate impact on your pet's health - subscribe to the free newsletter, and subscribe to Petsumer Report to see reviews of close to 700 dog and cat foods and treats (adding 40+ each month). Susan Thixton's 'truth' will help you find a safer, healthier dog or cat food that could add years to your pet's life. http://www.TruthAboutPetFood.com

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